How to Achieve the Greatest Honor.
So you wanna be a doctor…
You know it’s going to take years to become licensed, but how many exactly?
After you have gone to high school, and:
- earned your bachelor’s degree
- graduated medical school
- completed a residency
at least 11 years would have passed.
Here is where the years go:
Before The Game: Bachelor’s Degree–4 years
Four years to prepare your brain for the harsh education in medical school. Hence the “pre-med”–which is the title for an aspiring doctor in undergraduate. You don’t have to major in a science subject to be a “pre-med,” as long as the required classes are being taken. Yet majority of those students probably would choose to major in a medical related subject–since it interests them enough to want to go to medical school.
Medical School–4 years
Get your brain blown up with never-ending facts. Possibly regret every decision you’ve ever made, every medical show you’ve ever watched, every minute you’ve spent researching schools. The days are long and the studies are never-ending. Yet those who survive get the greatest honor one can imagine. The white coat.
The first two years are mostly excruciating study hours with information beyond what you thought existed. The first year teaches the healthy body. The second pushes it even further with classes on abnormalities. Every year, every semester that makes you feel it isn’t worth it, comes along with rewarding excitement that switches the burden to a fulfilling journey. Discoveries throughout the process are mind-blowing, and probably the initial reason you applied to medical school. The amazement is what keeps you moving through the impossible parts. The wonder of the body, of advanced medicine, of the beauty of a single life, all are studied–not only with endurance–but with enthusiasm. After you’ve learned the “basics,” you start being able to make connections and think like a doctor. That in itself is a major goal–that although doesn’t earn a certificate–is the reason you push to receive one at the end.
The third and fourth year rotations, finally getting to play along. Getting to practice up close. Standing in one spot next to the operating table or freshly born neonate, and watching your future. What you might officially be doing in just a few years. No other person can ever get a chance to carry out all those tasks without a license. And you can. You can because you are in medical school. And suddenly, the impossible has been passed.
In The Ring: Residency–3+ years
Basically is training in the hospital for your specialty. Because although you have passed the tests and earned your license, more hands-on training is required before you can officially be left alone and take responsibility for the patient. Here is where you’re finally able to do what you’ve been dreaming of. In the first year of residency you are an “intern” and the rest of the years–up to 6 (depending on the specialty) you are referred to as “the resident.” It’s also the years when you finally start getting paid.
This (possibly hardest) step attempts to break down what’s left of your body, and demands hours of focus despite the time, the temperature, and even your ability. It murderously kills the crumbs that are left of your stamina, and tests it up until where the stress would crush you. You’ll get the worst hours there is to get, maybe endure abusive treatment from the attending physician. All you can do at that point is suck it up, focus on the patient, and keep pushing for the final goal. Remembering that it can’t get any worse once you open your private practice helps the survival. Residency is standing in the midst of chaos–horrifying for most people, but beautiful for you.
Rematch: Fellowship–1 or 2 years
After completing residency, a doctor may finally choose to begin his/her practice. Other doctors who are in no rush, might want to expand their education and skills. Those will become a “Fellow” and get additional training in a sub-specialty.
For example, a pediatric urologist’s process:
Dr John Doe, Pediatric Urologist
How he got his title
After graduating med school, he got the “Dr” added to his name.
5 years of residency gave him his “urologist” title.
Completing a year of fellowship earned him his “pediatric” extension.
The Winner: Ready for Practice
Medicine is a practice. It is not something you can study for and then just move on. Even after graduation, physicians have to be re-certified every few years. Keep on practicing and using your experiences to become a better doctor.
So technically, yes it takes eleven years to become a physician, but you are already getting to do what you have always wanted to in the first few years. It’s the journey itself that makes it so rewarding.
…then the white coat is on, and your back has never been straighter. You have earned the greatest honor.